If you’re looking for summer reading ideas, then perhaps “Close of Play” by PJ Whiteley should be added to your list. This lovely gentle, romantic novel portrays rural England to a T – cricket, church, pubs and walkers – and unusually it is a romance written from a male point of view to boot! I loved the novel and I could picture the characters clearly in my mind as they remind me of similar characters I’ve come across in life! I was lucky enough to interview the author himself recently … Hi Philip, welcome to the blog….
Hi, I’m Philip. I am a full-time writer: author, ghostwriter and journalist. I’ve written or co-authored eight non-fiction business books, the first in 2002. I’m fascinated by people’s beliefs, and idiosyncrasies, and eccentricities – how we come to view the world the way we do. Close of Play is my first novel, and it’s a romantic comedy.
Although you have other non – fiction books written under your name (Philip Whiteley) principally about management, you have just written your first novel, Close Of Play, under the name of P J Whiteley. It is a lovely romantic novel (I was lucky enough to read a preview copy :)) portraying rural England, cricket, church, pubs and walkers … all the characters are utterly believable and it’s refreshing to read a romance book written from a male point of view…So where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?
Thank you so much for reading it, and I’m glad you enjoyed the experience! The way it came to be written was through a very long evolution. I’ve always been fascinated by people’s beliefs – whether you go to church; which political party you vote for and why, etc. I wanted to explore these ideas by putting together two Christian individuals having doubts and troubles in middle years. He’s the better sort of Tory, she’s the better sort of left-winger. So they have differences. Originally, the romance was going to be the supporting role, and the faith issues dominant. But it was a bit too ambitious for me, and lacking in direction and narrative strength. So I turned it around to make the relationship central, and to introduce a bit of humour. Some passages were written 17 years ago, and were originally parts of different chapters, long discarded!
Your boyhood ambition was to represent Yorkshire Cricket Club, and although you have now retired from amateur cricket you still play five a side football. Close of Play is the first in a planned series of sports-themed novels that also encompass human emotions such as love, loss, hope, life’s risks etc. What sports are you hoping to cover? What’s the next idea on the list?
My next idea is to take six Leeds United fans, including two brothers, on a pub tour of Belgium in August 2014. The idea came to me when my wife and I stayed in Bruges last year. As well as enjoying themselves, they’re going to visit the grave of the great-granddad of the two brothers near Ieper for the centenary of the Great War. There will be men and women, and different ages. Because the team’s glory years were in the 1970s, the youngsters are sometimes jealous of the older ones. And yes, there will be some romance. But I’m not saying any more because it’s supposed to come as a surprise. As with all ‘setting off on a journey’ sagas, the back stories emerge slowly and the characters learn things about themselves on the way. I’ve written nearly 20,000 words and I’m pleased with it so far. Working title is Marching On Together.
As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?
Up to the age of around 14 I read very boyish books: the Adventure series by Willard Price – very strong on environmental protection and beautifully written. I enjoyed the Silver Sword, and B Flight – both wartime dramas; occasionally a detective book like Hound of the Baskervilles. Probably my favourite books were the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge because they were so funny. I was never really captured by fantasy or sci-fi. Then in my teens it was mostly sport before moving on to grown-up novels. Nowadays, I don’t select books by genre. I like romances and rom-coms; some historical fiction and thrillers, and contemporary fiction generally. I’m a huge fan of magical realism and Spanish-language literature generally.
If you were able to visit any place in the world to help give inspiration for a new novel, where would you choose?
Santiago de Chile: a fascinating place in a most beautiful country. I lived there for a few months in 1991 and I want to base my third novel, prequel to the second, in Chile. It would actually be set back in April 1991, when a Chilean football club won the South American trophy for the only time. The party that followed was quite something! But I’d want to go back for a visit to pick up on the lingo and history again.
As much as you like writing novels & business books, is there any genre you would like to dabble in that you haven’t yet tried?
Well, I’ve always done a lot of journalism, and an idea for a non-fiction book that I would like to consider – though the research budget might be beyond me – would be to explore some of the big stories that don’t get picked up by mainstream newspapers or websites. Some vested interest groups work hard to suppress media stories and we don’t really have a free press. I’ve come across this in my ghostwriting work and it’s quite a scandal.
Hypothetically speaking, if Close of Play was made into a film, what actors would you pick to be the main characters of Brian (Colin), Elizabeth and the vicar, Godfrey?
That’s easy: Bob Daws was always in mind to be Colin, and by a weird coincidence – or kismet – he’s now a friend of mine through the Ampthill Literary Festival, and is giving a read-through at my launch! I think Samantha Bond to play Elizabeth. Probably the best actor for Godfrey is Timothy Spall, but I guess he’s too big a star for a fairly minor role, so his understudy, perhaps! …
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I work from home, so often just tee-shirt and jeans, but I like to get suited up for a meeting in London. Single-breasted, Mod style preferably.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Bookshops, mostly! Waterstones.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
New skinny jeans.
Boots or Shoes?
I can honestly say this is the first time in 12 years as an author that I’ve been asked this question! Doesn’t come up in management mags. Shoes, I guess, but I am a massive fan of mid-60s music so I just may splash out one day on Cuban heels to look like Bob Dylan or Pete Townshend circa 1965 (the best year ever for popular music).
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your novels.
Added treat: Here’s the YouTube video of TV actors Robert Daws and Amy Robbins ( a real-life married couple) reading from Chapter 11 of Close of Play, called ‘Clumsy Angel’. The YouTube video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPlkephSMqM
Thank you very much for chatting about your book and life – I wish you great success with this and future novels. Philip’s book is on promotion at the moment in WH Smith Travel until 3rd June 2015 – so don’t forget to grab a copy for some sweet summertime reading. When you’ve read it, let me know what you thought of the book – did you enjoy it as much as I did? I really hope so!
Photo Credits: Natalie Creative. Kind permission to publish video/photos given by P J Whiteley.